Labor Mobility in a Monetary Union

April 27, 2019

By Daniela Hauser; Martin Seneca

The optimal currency literature has stressed the importance of labor mobility as a precondition for the success of monetary unions. But only a few studies formally link labor mobility to macroeconomic adjustment and policy. In this paper, we study macroeconomic dynamics and optimal monetary policy in an economy with cyclical labor flows across two distinct regions that share trade links and a common monetary framework. In our New Keynesian dynamic, stochastic, general-equilibrium model calibrated to the United States, migration flows are driven by fluctuations in the relative labor market performance across the monetary union. While labor mobility can be an additional channel for cross-regional spillovers as well as a regional shock absorber, we find that a mobile labor force closes the efficiency gaps in the labor market and thus lessens the trade-off between inflation and labor market stabilization. As migration flows are generally inefficient, however, regionspecific disturbances introduce additional trade-offs with regional labor market conditions. Putting some weight on stabilizing fluctuations in the labor market enhances welfare when monetary policy follows a simple rule.

The US is the closest we can get to perfect labor mobility, and yet it is not sufficient for a monetary union, the central bank still needs to make adjustments for labor market frictions. How much worse is it in other monetary unions, such as Europe and the various African ones, or within some of the other large countries?


Fiscal Policy Multipliers in Small States

April 25, 2019

By Ali Alichi, Ippei Shibata and Kadir Tanyeri

Government debt in many small states has risen beyond sustainable levels and some governments are considering fiscal consolidation. This paper estimates fiscal policy multipliers for small states using two distinct models: an empirical forecast error model with data from 23 small states across the world; and a Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model calibrated to a hypothetical small state’s economy. The results suggest that fiscal policy using government current primary spending is ineffective, but using government investment is very potent in small states in affecting the level of their GDP over the medium term. These results are robust to different model specifications and characteristics of small states. Inability to affect GDP using current primary spending could be frustrating for policymakers when an expansionary policy is needed, but encouraging at the current juncture when many governments are considering fiscal consolidation. For the short term, however, multipliers for government current primary spending are larger and affected by imports as share of GDP, level of government debt, and position of the economy in the business cycle, among other factors.

Rarely is the (fixed) exogenous assumption of the small country model more applicable than in this paper looking micro-states. Yet, I sense from the results (comparing debt and interest on debt) that the interest rate is not constant in this model. I wonder how this is motivated in the IMF’s DSGE model. Also, speaking of fiscal policy in micro-states, clearly they are also driven by fiscal haven considerations, i.e., a game with the rest of the world trying to attract mobile income and wealth. I do not think the model captures this either, and I am not expecting it to do so, but this seems to be an important consideration for this particular application.

Policy Trade-Offs in Building Resilience to Natural Disasters: The Case of St. Lucia

April 17, 2019

BY Alessandro Cantelmo; Leo Bonato; Giovanni Melina; Gonzalo Salinas

Resilience to climate change and natural disasters hinges on two fundamental elements: financial protection —insurance and self-insurance— and structural protection —investment in adaptation. Using a dynamic general equilibrium model calibrated to the St. Lucia’s economy, this paper shows that both strategies considerably reduce the output loss from natural disasters and studies the conditions under which each of the two strategies provides the best protection. While structural protection normally delivers a larger payoff because of its direct dampening effect on the cost of disasters, financial protection is superior when liquidity constraints limit the ability of the government to rebuild public capital promptly. The estimated trade-off is very sensitive to the efficiency of public investment.

This paper shows how far DGE modelling has strayed from studying business cycles in the US. This one is about studying climate change and natural disasters in a Caribbean island-state. D(S)GE is very broadly applicable and should be used more to study questions like these that have concrete policy applications.

The Intergenerational Incidence of Green Tax Reform

April 10, 2019

By Sebastian Rausch and Hidemichi Yonezawa

We examine the lifetime incidence and intergenerational distributional effects of an economywide carbon tax swap using a numerical dynamic general equilibrium model with overlapping generations of the U.S. economy. We highlight various fundamental choices in policy design including (1) the level of the initial carbon tax, (2) the growth rate of the carbon tax trajectory of over time, and (3) alternative ways for revenue recycling. Without revenue recycling, we find that generations born before the tax is introduced experience smaller welfare losses, or even gain, relative to future generations. For sufficiently low growth rates of the tax trajectory, the impacts for distant future generations decrease over time. For future generations born after the introduction of the tax, the negative welfare impacts are the smallest (largest) when revenues are recycled through lowering pre-existing capital income taxes (through per-capita lump-sum rebates). For generations born before the tax is introduced, we find that lump-sum rebates favor very old generations and labor (capital) income tax recycling favors very young generations (generations of intermediate age).

Now that carbon taxes are taking a foothold, the question arises what to do with the revenue. The politically expedient way is to provide a lump-sum rebate, which may make sense if you are trying to sell the main point of the carbon tax to politicians and the general public: pricing pollution. But one can do better and this paper shows that there are stark differences across generations on both fronts, the tax itself and its benefits. This is one of those cases where you have to choose between a complex, optimal schedule and a simple, easy-to-sell policy.

Environmental Policy Instrument Choice and International Trade

March 29, 2019

By J. Scott Holladay, Mohammed Mohsin and Shreekar Pradhan

We develop a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model to understand how environmental policy instrument choice affects trade. We extend the existing literature by employing an open economy model to evaluate three environmental policy instruments: cap-and-trade, pollution taxes, and an emissions intensity standard in the face of two types of exogenous shocks. We calibrate the model to Canadian data and simulate productivity and import price shocks. We evaluate the evolution of key macroeconomic variables, including the trade balance in response to the shocks under each policy instrument. Our findings for the evolution of output and emissions under a productivity shock are consistent with previous closed economy models. Our open economy framework allows us to find that a cap-and-trade policy dampens the international trade effects of the business cycle relative to an emissions tax or intensity standard. Under an import shock, pollution taxes and intensity targets are as effective as cap-and-trade policies in reducing variance in consumption and employment. The cap-and-trade policy limits the intensity of the import competition shock suggesting that particular policy instrument might serve as a barrier to trade.

While it is not the principal purpose of environmental policy, it is nice to know that it does not amplify business cycles. But I suspect that it matters how pollution enters the model. In this case, it is through a production loss. What if it where through a utility loss or a death probability increase (change in discount rate)? I suspect there is a reasonable specification that could reverse the result. I want to see a paper that proves me wrong.

Behavioural economics is useful also in macroeconomics : the role of animal spirits

March 27, 2019

By Paul de Grauwe and Yuemei Ji

Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models are still dominant in mainstream macroeconomics, but they are only able to explain business cycle fluctuations as the result of exogenous shocks. This paper uses concepts from behavioural economics and discusses a New Keynesian macroeconomic model that generates endogenous business cycle fluctuations driven by animal spirits. Our discussion includes two applications. One is on the optimal level of inflation targeting under a zero lower bound constraint. The other is on the role of animal spirits in explaining the synchronization of business cycles across countries.

I guess this is more an issue of semantics, but animal spirits still need to be triggered by something, however small that may be, and this something is still exogenous to the model, right? The dream of having a fully endogenous model is a pipe dream.

Inequality, Portfolio Choice and the Great Recession

March 25, 2019

By Heejeong Kim

What drives sharp declines in aggregate quantities over the Great Recession? I study this question by building a dynamic stochastic overlapping generations economy where households hold both low-return liquid and high-return illiquid assets. In this environment, I consider shocks to aggregate TFP that occur alongside a rise in risk of a further economic downturn. Importantly, a higher probability of an economic disaster is consistent with the recent evidence finding a decline in households’ expected income growth over the Great Recession. I also show that a rise in disaster risk explains the rise in savings rates, seen in the micro data over the Great Recession. When calibrated to reproduce the distribution of wealth as well as the frequency and severity of disasters reported in Barro (2006), a rise in disaster risk, and an empirically consistent fall in TFP, explains around 70 percent of the decline in aggregate consumption and more than 50 percent of the decline in investment over the Great Recession. Comparing my model to an economy without illiquid assets, I find that household variation in the liquidity of wealth plays a key role in amplifying the effect of a rise in disaster risk.

I am not sure the risk of disaster increased, rather it is the subjective probability of a disaster that increased. When the Great Recession hit, very few in that generation had experienced a deep recession. An economic disaster was simply not on the radar, despite the gold nuts’ best efforts. Just like now it is unfathomable to have interest rates that are close to zero. Economics memories are surprisingly short. In any case, these kind of changes, whether they are subjective or not, matter, as this paper shows.